Monday, September 19, 2016

Running Towards a Cure: Meet Members of Team Douglas

"Imagine a disease that combines the worst symptoms of muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, immune deficiencies, and cancer- especially leukemia and lymphoma, all rolled into one fatal genetic diseaseChildren with A-T are usually confined to wheelchairs by age ten and do not survive their teens." - Run AT: For Kids Who Can't, pamphlet from A-T Children's Project. 

Until a few months ago, I'd never heard of A-T, or Ataxia-Telangiectasia. Matthew first brought it to my attention when he approached me about running for the A-T Children's Project as a charity runner. He recently had a student in his class, Emma, who shared his affection for runDisney events and told Matthew about her experience running the 2016 Walt Disney World Half Marathon for the A-T Children's Project on Team Douglas. Douglas, or DJ as he's also known, is Emma's brother and he was diagnosed with A-T at the age of five. He's now 22 and defying the odds as an A-T "kid."

After learning more about A-T and the work that the A-T Children's Project does- and hearing about Emma's awesome experience- Matthew signed up to run the 2017 Dopey Challenge with Team Douglas. Recently, I sat down with Emma to talk to her about what motivates her to run for DJ and the A-T Children's Project. 

Emma (standing second from left) with DJ and some of the A-T Cure Team at last year's WDW Half Marathon.

Emma grew up athletic, though running was "not her sport." Her mom actually got her into running because she'd been running the WDW Marathon for 10 years- all for the A-T Children's Project. So last year, Emma decided to run her first half marathon at Walt Disney World as a part of Team Douglas. 

Leading up to the race, Emma's longest training run was nine miles. "Looking back," she says, "I wish I'd had more of a training plan." During the race itself, she said the heat was really getting to her and caused her to slow down a bit towards the end. She had a goal for her first half marathon- under two hours. 

"I was actually really mad at myself because I was looking at the time clocks on each mile marker, thinking that was the actual time I'd been running so I let myself slow down thinking 'oh, I won't reach my goal time' but actually, I finished in 2:04! If I had just not looked at the clocks and slowed down, I could have made my goal of sub-2."

Emma's goal for 2017? "Still sub-2."

Besides running and training, Emma and I talked for a long time about A-T, the impact DJ's diagnosis has had on her and her family's life, and how the disease manifests itself on DJ. A-T is a multi-system disease that involves immune system problems, a predisposition to cancer, progressive degeneration of the cerebellum, has no cure, and currently, there is no way to slow down the disease. 

DJ was diagnosed at five and was wheelchair-bound by 10. At age 14, he was diagnosed with a rare and acute type of blood cancer (one of the Leukemias) that resulted in over 100 days in the hospital the first year alone and an additional four years of chemotherapy. To this day, he still requires IVIG and platelet transfusions every six weeks and will continue to need them for the rest of his life.


But none of that slows DJ down. According to Emma, "He's a fighter. He never lets anything get him down and always has a big smile on his face, even if he's hurting." 

In addition to being an awesome brother, DJ also works part-time at a local running store, AppalachianRunning Company (ARC). I reached out to Josh Beck, owner of ARC, and asked him what DJ brings to the workplace: "So what does he bring?  A huge smile.  That’s the part I think about with Doug.  It’s easily the strongest muscle in his body!  He also brings a perspective to the store that is uniquely his.  It’s not often you see someone in a wheelchair selling running shoes.  His condition does not define him but it is a reminder that we all have it very, very good." 

I asked Emma about what motivates her to keep running for Team Douglas: "If he can go through all he's gone through and still fight, I can be in pain for two hours and run a half marathon. What I deal with is nothing compared to his daily life." 

After meeting with Emma it is clear how much her family has been impacted by A-T. While A-T itself is extremely rare, one in every 40,000- 100,000 live births, research into the disease can actually significantly advance research in other more prevalent diseases: Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, AIDS, and cancer. The A-T Children's Project is a "non-profit organization that raises funds to support and coordinate first-rate biomedical research projects, scientific conferences, and a clinical center- all aimed at finding a cure or life-improving therapies for ataxia-telangiectasia (A-T)."  

The Walt Disney World Marathon is one of the largest fundraisers for the A-T Children's Project. Runners from all over the country will descend upon Walt Disney World in early January of 2017 as part of the A-T Children's Project team with two common goals- successfully cross the finish line of their race and find a cure for A-T. 

As part of Team Douglas, Matthew will join the A-T runners as he runs all four races that weekend in the 2017 Dopey Challenge. I asked Matthew about his motivation to run as a charity runner: "I've had the good fortune to run at seven out of the last eight Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend events and I just wanted to give back as a charity runner. I want to run for those who can't- including Emma's brother and all the other A-T kids that the A-T Children's Project is working for."

Matthew's Goofy Challenge finish in 2013.

While I'm not officially part of Team Douglas, I wholeheartedly support all the work that the charity runners and the A-T Children's Project do to help fund-raise to find a cure for this disease. I can't wait to cheer on all the runners in a few months at Disney as they celebrate crossing their finish line and being one step closer to a cure. 

For more information about A-T and the A-T Children's Project, check out their website here

For more information on Team Douglas, click here 

Donate to Emma here or Matthew here

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Adulting in Disney Giveaway!

Good morning, friends!

I love Disney. Y'all should know this by now :-)

Matthew and I got engaged in Disney, we honeymooned in Disney, and since we've been together, we've probably spent a collective three months (or more!) vacationing and/or running at the World.


In fact, all but ONE of my visits to WDW have been as an adult- my first visit was at 16. One of the questions that Matthew and I get a lot is this: "You two don't have kids- why do you love Disney so much?" Honestly? Because it's one of the best places to vacation as an adult.

Through many trips (and lots of research) we've found fun things to see and do at WDW as a child-free couple. However, when our good friend Lauren started talking about launching a super-cool business, Adulting in Disney, I realized how much we were missing out on!

There are unique experiences, one-of-a-kind foods, delicious beverages, and insider kid-free tips that she knows about that Matthew and I- self proclaimed Disney experts- had absolutely no idea about. Right away, I knew she was on to something with this whole Adulting in Disney (AiD) thing!

Here's the skinny on AiD from Lauren herself:

What is it?

L: Adulting in Disney is a concierge-level planning service for your next adult Walt Disney World Vacation. I create unique, fully customized vacation itineraries based on multiple visits, exhaustive research and insider tips from my network of Walt Disney World lovers.

Basically that’s PR girl talk for I’m an adult that LOVES WDW and truly believes it’s the perfect vacation spot for adults.  I want to proselytize for others—everyone deserves an amazing adulting trip to Disney.

Why am I doing this?

L: In the last year I’ve been empowered to start doing things with my time that fill me up rather than grind me down.  After I co-founded a PR firm I found myself still obsessively dreaming of planning my Walt Disney World vacations.  I follow all the blogs, Twitter accounts and might have a few dream boards on Pinterest.  Since no one has put me on their mid-to back of pack elite running team, I figured I should really live by the moto “get paid for what you love doing – and that’s usually what you do in your free time.” Why not make my other hobby – Disney vacation planning – a service for other people?

Why should people use an Adulting in Disney itinerary?

L: I’ve been to Disney World over 20 times.  The first time I went was a disaster.  All I had was a map and the understanding that I needed to ride all the “Mountains” in the MK. We ate nothing but chicken fingers and French fries and I was surrounded by families and strollers.  While it was fun, I knew there was more (I saw it zipping by on the monorails!) that MB [Lauren's husband] and I loved to do that would have that special Disney Magic. With each trip I did more research, reading, reaching out to other people and my itineraries were more detailed and had more adult-friendly (read: nice dinners, amazing cocktail lounges, Extra Magical hours in the PM at MK!)  which in turn made our vacation even more magical.  An Adulting in Disney itinerary takes it one step further – finding and planning adult-specific activities for people who DON’T want to spend weeks and months researching and planning from scratch.  I’ve done almost all of it. And if I haven’t done it, I’ve read about it and desperately want to :-)

Is it really worth the cost to have someone else make a spread sheet?

L: Objectively, yes. An Adulting in Disney itinerary is going to save you time and money.  First, those of us that visit often know the pitfalls of making loose plans, the horror of not knowing about Advanced Dining reservations, or making plans that are unrealistic given the time constraints around a number of things like FastPasses, park hours, shows and worst of all Disney transportation.  AiD takes all the guess work out of where, when and how you’re going to get to your next cool activity.  And it saves money because let’s be real, your time is valuable.  You can spend hours sketching out your vacation, not really knowing if you’re making the right choice – or you can let me do it and you can focus your time on other important things, like finding the perfect Mickey t-shirt. 

How does the process work to make an AiD itinerary?

L: You can submit a form on my website with the basics and then there are two options: Vacationers can be as involved or hands-off as they want. I’m happy to let my imagination run wild with possibilities for you.  Or I’m happy to review lengthy must-do lists and help narrow down the possibilities – and add a few must-dos you might not have known about.  

Sounds pretty cool, right?!

Well guess what? It's about to get cooler! Steff and I have teamed up to give away a FREE 7-day Adulting in Disney itinerary! All you need to do is enter the giveaway below between now (9/15/16) and next Wednesday (9/21/16) at midnight. Winner will be chosen at random.

If you don't win but are still interested in AiD's services, just tell Lauren that Sarah or Steff sent you and you'll get 50% off a custom itinerary!

Seriously, check out the Adulting in Disney website to see more about what this awesome service has to offer and don't forget to enter the giveaway below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Accountability Tuesday: September 6, 2016

Good afternoon, friends!

I hope you had a wonderful Labor Day weekend full of relaxation. Matthew and I rode out Tropical Storm Hermine in beautiful Cape May, NJ. We ended up not getting anything except a little bit of wind and rain. Overall, we had great (but cool) weather. 

At one of our favorite spots- Cape May Brewing Company

Tuesday- 2.27 miles in 30 minutes, 13:16 pace
Saturday- 9 miles in 1:57:35, 13:04 pace
Monday- PT knee strength workout

We also biked all over the place this weekend at the beach. That's one of the reasons we love vacationing in Cape May- it is very bike-friendly. After all the biking and the nine mile run this weekend, my knee feels pretty good. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that is stays that way throughout the longer mileage weekends in the next few months.

Eventually my pant leg fell down and got caught in the bike chain. #whompwhomp

Food Find:
Though it's not quite fall yet, I've been already looking for good fall-like recipes. This morning, I tried out my own little concoction that I'm calling "Choco-Pumpkin Overnight Oats:"

1/3 old fashioned oats
1/3 cup light vanilla soy milk
1/4 canned pumpkin
1 tbsp mini chocolate chips
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Layer the oats, pumpkin, and chocolate chips in a mason jar. Add cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice to the vanilla soy milk then pour over the layers. Refrigerate overnight; heat and serve in the morning. Simple, delicious, and filling! 

I expect I'll be experimenting more with pumpkin this fall as it is one of my favorite flavors. I've already got some freezing so I can try it out in a smoothie :-)

-2 pounds from last week.

I can't even remember the last time I had a two pound loss in a week- feels pretty awesome!

My thoughts exactly :-) 

Non-Scale Victory:
At the bar this weekend, I almost ordered a margarita (15+ Smart Points) but settled for a summer shandy beer instead (5 Smart Points). Sometimes vacations can wreck havoc on my weight loss/maintenance plans but this weekend I was happy with my choices. 

Have a great (short) week!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Introducing... Wonder Woman AKA Rock It Red!

And the new color is....


...or as I like to call it, WONDER WOMAN!

Hopefully you've just watched Authentically Emmie reveal the brand new, limited edition ENELL bra live on facebook! 

As an Enell Race Team Ambassador, I got my hands on this gorgeous bra a few days ago and decided to live record the unboxing so y'all could see my genuine surprise reaction- we were not told what the new bra looked like, only that one was coming our way. So, I put together this little youtube channel (I don't know if I'll use it again, it is super cringe-worthy watching yourself!) and filmed my reaction. Check it out below:

If you ever doubted my level of enthusiasm and love for the ENELL brand, this video - and the constant use of the term "holy freaking crap" - should convince you otherwise.

I can't wait to try her out this weekend on my long run. Follow me on instagram to see this beauty in action!

If you want a "Rock It Red" for yourself, head on over to and use the code "RockIt10" for 10% off and FREE shipping until 9/12!

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Accountability Tuesday: August 30, 2016

Short and sweet this week, friends.

It's been busy at work because all of our students moved in over the weekend and we've been going non-stop with programs and events. But, I still managed to get all my miles in for Walt Disney World Marathon training!

Tuesday- 2.3 miles in 30:51, 13:23 pace
Wednesday- 2.63 miles in 30:02, 11:25 pace
Saturday- Shippensburg University Service Fun Run/Walk, 3.37 miles in 37:12, 11:03 pace

The university I work for sponsored a fun run Saturday night and even though it was supremely hot and hilly, I was impressed that I kept just over and 11 minute/mile pace. I still went out too fast. My splits looked like this: 10:42/11:24/11:36/9:31. All. Over. The. Damn. Place. Someday I'll learn about pacing, someday.

The weak link for me this week was strength training. I don't enjoy it and it is so difficult to MAKE myself do it. Ultimately, I know it's an important part of my running AND maintaining my weight. My goal is to make that more of a priority this upcoming week.

Too fast to capture on camera ;-) 

Food Find & Non-Scale Victory:
No cool food find this week, but this week was the second time that I had Smart Points left over at the end of the week! (My Weight Watcher week runs Wednesday- Tuesday) I am super proud of myself for sticking closer to my Smart Points goal each day and making healthier choices.

Anything left at the end of the week is a miracle. 

+ .4 from last week.

Not concerned. .4 is just a bathroom break ;-)


So, as you know, I'm an ENELL Race Ambassador. In addition to getting some races sponsored, we also get new limited-edition bras before the general public. Yesterday, I got the new, SURPRISE color bra and I was so freaking excited! I even filmed my reaction so you can see how pumped I was when I saw the new color- it's gorgeous!

I'll have a special post here on Thursday (when the color will be released) with my newly created YouTube account. Trust me, I haven't got a clue what I'm doing when it comes to videos but I think you'll like seeing the genuine reaction to the new color.

Have a great week, friends!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Enell Ambassador Race Recap & Review: Baltimore Women's Classic

Note: As an ENELL Racing Ambassador, I receive race entry fees and merchandise, but I genuinely love the brand. All opinions here are my own. 

For the third year in a row, on the last Sunday in June, I ran the Mid-Atlantic's largest women's only race, the Baltimore Women's Classic. [check out 2014 and 2015's recaps!]

While the things I love about this course- the bling, the price, the atmosphere- stayed the same, there were a few differences. First, I was running this race as a part of the Enell Racing Team so I got to wear my sweet Enell tank and my newest favorite Enell, Biscay Bay. Or as I like to call it, the "Green Goddess."

The second thing that was different about this year's race was that I decided to run this race in memory of a former student intern of mine, Amanda Strous. On June 18, a little over a month before she was to be married, Amanda was murdered in her apartment, most likely by her upstairs neighbor. The night before the race, I decided that I wanted to run with Amanda's name on my back. I felt so incredibly helpless (and still do, to be honest) and this felt like something small I could do to honor her and share her name with others.

Flat runner.

The morning of the race, Matthew and I arrived to downtown Baltimore about an hour before the start. We'd pre-purchased parking (thank you, Parking Panda!) and then walked about a half mile to get the to pre-race expo/festival. My dad had already picked up my packet earlier in the week so we just walked around to see the different vendors and what they had for sale. I also might have eaten some watermelon :-)

While waiting near the start line, Matthew and I consulted the course map to see where he would station himself to get some good pictures. We didn't have long to wait and soon enough, the race began and we were off!

My strategy for this race was to reserve as much energy as I could. It was sunny and warm and I tend to get dehydrated and very light headed when I run in the summer.

Waving to Matthew, not saluting. ;-)

The biggest challenge of this course is the monster hill that you hit about a mile in. It's a heck of an incline but the good thing is that after that hill, there really isn't much elevation change throughout the rest of the course.

As you can see from the following pictures, the course was crowded. I'm not sure how many women raced this year but it felt close to 2,000. Given that I'm usually towards the middle-to-back of the pack, it was especially crowded on the parts of the course that narrowed. Sometimes I struggled to find room to slow down and take my walk breaks.

Beginning of the race... elbow to elbow.

End of the race... still elbow to elbow.

Despite the heat and the crowded course, I finished the race in 35:06. As I walked through the finisher's chute, I grabbed my medal, a bottle of water, and a cold towel- they take such good care of runners at this race. Then I walked towards a volunteer handing out roses- he went to grab one rose and accidentally came out with two as they were caught up on each other's stems and leaves. He said, "You get two!" with a big grin. I took both roses and immediately knew why I'd received two- one was for me; the other for Amanda.

After the race, I ran into two friends: Dr. Iannone, my undergrad psych professor, and Tara, an IG friend that actually won my blog's second birthday giveaway. It was awesome to see both of them and catch up. Matthew and I also headed over to a new vendor this year that was giving away free finisher photos. I also might have eaten some more watermelon :-)

Dr. Iannone, me, and Tara. And then me again. :-)

Thanks, Baltimore Photo Social!

All in all, this was another great Baltimore Women's Classic race. I was thankful for my beautiful new Enell for supporting me in style and always keeping the girls in their place. And I am so in love with this green color; it looks so great with my tanks/racer-backs.

I was also thankful for the 3.1 miles of quiet reflection I had during the race when I was able to think about Amanda's life and legacy that she left on this earth. It was a privilege to run every step with her name on my back.

This event has all the elements of a great race: semi-challenging course, ice-cold towels and watermelon at the finish, free photos, awesome bling, and easy race-day logistics. I think this one will be on the calendar for years and years to come!

Have you ever done a race more than once? If so, why? If not, why not?

Monday, August 22, 2016

Accountability Monday: August 22, 2016

Good morning!

Today is a very special day- it's Matthew's birthday! Happy birthday to the best friend, best running partner, and best husband that I could have ever possibly asked for. Enjoy your day, boo! :-)

Thanks for always making me laugh- happy birthday, love!

Ok- so here's last week in a nutshell:

Monday- PT workout
Tuesday- 30 minute run, 2.5 miles, 12:33 pace
Wednesday- PT workout
Thursday- 30 minute run, 2.58 miles, 12:23 pace
Saturday-  7 miles on the trail, 1:33:38, 13:21 pace
Sunday- PT workout and Leslie Sanzone's "Walk Away the Pounds" 60 minute 4 mile walk

This week marked the first "long" run of this marathon training cycle. Technically, it should have been nine miles but since I'm still nursing this inflamed knee, I've cut back all my long runs by at least two miles.

While my knee was a bit cranky after the run, it felt fine the next day and feels ok today. It was a HUGE confidence boost to be able to run seven miles on Saturday- I'm looking forward to longer training runs in the upcoming weeks :-)

Food Find:
This weekend we visited my brother in Rehoboth Beach, DE so we ate out every meal- which is usually very challenging for me because it's harder to eat healthy when you are constantly eating in a restaurant. While I did overindulge a bit, I am very proud of my choice to get the "Light & Fit Breakfast" at Ihop Sunday morning. Little victories, right?

Don't worry, the hashbrowns were Matthew's :-)

+1 from last week.

Lots of travel + out of my cooking routine = weight gain/maintenance

Non-Scale Victory:
I tracked all my food this weekend, including the two appetizers I had late-night at Applebee's- even though it was semi-ugly :-)

Have a great week, friends!